Here's who we think should and will win at Sunday's Emmy Awards (Sept. 20, 8/7c, CBS) — plus, a few dark horses to keep things interesting.
Poll: Vote for your picks to win in our Emmys section
Best Comedy Series
WHO SHOULD WIN: 30 Rock With the most talented comedic ensemble (not to mention those guest stars), better writing, and more laughs per minute than any show in this category, it deserves its third Best Comedy trophy.
WHO WILL WIN: 30 Rock This crowded category is divided into two categories: Shows that present not normally funny situations with humor (Entourage, Flight of the Conchords and Weeds) and those that are just balls-out in it for the laughs (The Office, 30 Rock, Family Guy and How I Met Your Mother). Weeds had a great rebuilding season, but suffers from a small audience and perhaps too-edgy subject matter. The Office floated a few (admittedly enjoyable) emotional storylines — Michael and Holly, Michael's new paper company, Jim and Pam's courtship — that distracted from the funny. Only 30 Rock does both sit- and com- well.
DARK HORSE: CBS has proven itself the king of the traditional sitcom, so if there is an upset, I'd look for Mother to steal the prize.
Best Drama Series
WHO SHOULD WIN: Lost It has, well, lost a lot of viewers along its long, strange trip. But as it enters the home stretch, no show has presented a tense, compelling mystery with more finesse and innovation.
WHO WILL WIN: Mad Men Damages and House had uneven seasons. Mad Men has benefited from a DVD-fueled bandwagon that has only increased its popularity between seasons. The same cannot be said for Big Love and Dexter.
DARK HORSE: A lot of fans in the Academy (remember Bryan Cranston's win last year?) could be good news for Breaking Bad.
Best Actor in a Comedy
WHO SHOULD WIN: Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords If more people watched FOTC, they'd realize that Clement tickles ribs with both his comic songs and his comic timing.
WHO WILL WIN: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock Steve Carell and Charlie Sheen are both comfortably settled on slightly-less-funny-than-before perches, and I think even the Academy might be ready to pass over seven-time nominee (and three-time winner) Tony Shalhoub. Buoyed by great scripts and incredible screwball chemistry with Tina Fey, defending champ Baldwin is poised to repeat.
DARK HORSE: The TV critics keep telling us how much they love Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory — could this be the year the Academy listens?
Best Actor in a Drama
WHO SHOULD WIN: Hugh Laurie, House This season, Laurie gave the unsympathetic Dr. House surprising depth as his drug-addled crankiness morphed first into aching grief and then down the rabbit hole to madness.
WHO WILL WIN: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad While Simon Baker and Gabriel Byrne's nominations are nice gestures, their roles are too subdued to reward among this company. Michael C. Hall added daddy to Dexter's many hats, but Cranston's increasingly desperate portrait will move him to the fore.
DARK HORSE: If there's a Mad Men sweep, Jon Hamm could nab his first Emmy win.
Best Actress in a Comedy
WHO SHOULD WIN: Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds Parker further fleshed out Nancy's tenuous grip on reality as the show moved from the 'burbs to the border.
WHO WILL WIN: Tina Fey, 30 Rock While Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Christina Applegate have done quality traditional sitcom work, their shows lack the punch to stand out in this field. Sarah Silverman does stand out, but her comedy is perhaps too risqué. Enter Fey, America's acid-tongued sweetheart.
DARK HORSE: United States of Tara's edgy premise divided viewers, but Toni Collette's multiple performances are certainly Emmy-worthy.
Best Actress in a Drama
WHO SHOULD WIN: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men All season long, we waited for Peggy's secret to spill, and when it did, Moss showed us all the gripping emotion she'd been holding back.
WHO WILL WIN: Glenn Close, Damages Sally Field is a past winner, but her season was uneven. Mariska Hargitay always deserves recognition, but after reportedly bitter contract renegotiations, she won't get it this year. Holly Hunter is brilliant on Saving Grace, but is anyone watching?
DARK HORSE: On The Closer, Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda Leigh did something truly controversial for a cable lady: She got married. The fans loved it.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
WHO SHOULD WIN: Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother We'll skip the obligatory legendary joke, because there's no waiting for Harris' talent. His characterization of sensitive New Age man-whore Barney makes us giggle and swoon.
WHO WILL WIN: Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother Jack McBrayer is great, but 30 Rock fans are more likely to vote for Tracy Morgan (see below). Kevin Dillon and Rainn Wilson are also worthy, but neither had particularly interesting storylines this season. And Jon Cryer? This is his fourth nomination in this category, and we think that's enough. With Jeremy Piven out of the running and after buzzworthy gigs hosting Saturday Night Live and the Tonys, this is Harris' year. Oh yeah, he's also hosting the Emmys, so it'll be mighty awkward if he goes home empty-handed.
DARK HORSE: Morgan (and his partner-in-insanity Jane Krakowski) is often overlooked among 30 Rock's talented ensemble, but his skills can't be beat.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
WHO SHOULD WIN: Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies At the gooey center of Daisies' confectionary whimsy is Chenoweth's Olive, whose unrequited love for Ned flares up in quirky, funny ways — say, through a poorly timed song.
WHO WILL WIN: Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock Look for this Tony winner to take home the prize. Elizabeth Perkins and Vanessa Williams had unmemorable seasons, and Amy Poehler — as great as she is — didn't actually complete a season, as she was mostly out on maternity leave. That leaves Krakowski, whose special brand of crazy is the perfect foil for Tina Fey's exasperated normalcy.
DARK HORSE: Kristen Wiig became shorthand for funny on Saturday Night Live this season, with a stable of recurring characters and a special gift for improv.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
WHO SHOULD WIN: Michael Emerson, Lost This may not have been his strongest season on Lost. But we're running out of time, people! Emerson's Benjamin Linus defines complicated. Quick: Is he a good guy or a bad guy? It's still hard to say, right?
WHO WILL WIN: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad William Shatner and Christian Clemenson will split the Boston Legal vote. William Hurt was, by most accounts, tragically underused on Damages. Paul's descent into heroin addiction was both sad and willful — a hard combination to watch.
DARK HORSE: John Slattery's lecherous Roger Sterling could take home some hardware if there's a Mad Men sweep.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
WHO SHOULD WIN: Cherry Jones, 24 Much was made of Jones' appointment to 24's highest office in a post-Hillary Clinton world, but most striking about her performance was not her gender, but her convincing portrayal of a beleaguered, resilient commander in chief.
WHO WILL WIN: Dianne Wiest, In Treatment Neither Grey's Anatomy nominee, Chandra Wilson nor Sandra Oh, did her best work this season. While Rose Byrne is excellent on Damages, she's often overshadowed by her more famous co-stars. So Wiest will take home her second Emmy for playing Gina, a feisty shrink-to-a-shrink on HBO's In Treatment.
DARK HORSE: In Treatment may be little-seen, but it's an actor's showcase. Hope Davis' brittle career gal with a past made us squirm.
Carrie Ann Inaba and Chris Harrison host TV Guide Network's live red carpet coverage of the 61st Primetime Emmy® Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20th at 6/5c.
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